Beistegui letter

1 May 2010

Dear Professor Driscoll,

This is a letter that follows up from the email that, together with my colleagues Professors Ansell-Pearson and Houlgate, we sent you yesterday.

The more I think about your decision, the more I find it incomprehensible and, frankly, contrary to the very interests and mission of your university.

The impression it gives is one of an institution that, so long as the economic situation is favourable, is happy to support a whim, which looks good and gives it intellectual credibility, but that is willing to sacrifice it at the drop of a hat as soon as the situation deteriorates.  But the question is: should philosophy and the humanities in general be seen as disposable luxuries, or should they be recognised as central to our heritage, our social, political and cultural life? Do we measure the state of our education only on the basis of numbers and profit, and do we educate the youth only to provide them with the necessary skills to be competitive on the job market?  Or do we also educate citizens, critical minds, and free thinkers?  Can such goals be measured?  I believe they can.  But not immediately, and not only financially.  Their reward is reaped further down the line, and in ways that could never have been anticipated.

From its inception 2500 years ago, philosophy has been the most extraordinary laboratory of human thought, and generated the ideas, the values, and the aspirations that govern our lives today, in Britain and across the world.  In my view, the Centre for Modern Thought at Middlesex is part of that history.  It is itself a dynamic and innovative laboratory, to which students flock year after year.  I myself have visited the Centre for Modern Thought on a few occasions, and have always been struck by its extraordinary energy, commitment, and acute sense of responsibility to the local community, the philosophical community, and the wider political community.  I can say with confidence that there isn’t a single Philosophy Department in the country that is more in tune with its social, political, and cultural environment.  Its intellectual influence cannot be underestimated.  Over the years, it has generated debates that have rippled across the Channel, the Atlantic, and beyond.  The philosophers at Middlesex are as excellent and inspirational as they get.

Closing down the Philosophy Department amounts to nothing less than the decapitation of an intellectual force in its prime.  It isn’t an innocent closure, but an assassination.  It will (and already is) also perceived as an attack against philosophy in the UK.  On both counts, it is a disatrous decision, and I urge you to reconsider it.

Yours truly,

Prof. Miguel de Beistegui
Department of Philosophy
The University of Warwick

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